I almost fell out of my chair after hearing NBC’s announcement that they’re bringing back Last Comic Standing, an American Idol-like competition series to find the best comedian in the country — and even more surprised to find out one of my favorite comics, Wanda Sykes, will be an executive producer.
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The reason why I was so shocked is because this show has been cancelled, left for dead and revived more times than I can count. Okay, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised at this point, but I still was. But is it a good thing that NBC will air an eighth season of LCS in the summer of 2014? Even as a fan, I can still see both the good and bad to this announcement.
So here are the pros and cons of reviving Last Comic Standing:
Pro: A Great Platform for Comedians
Last Comic Standing is all about comedians. It’s about finding the best and most hilarious people in the country. And as with shows like American Idol and The Voice, us the viewers are exposed and introduced to comedians we might not otherwise have found out about.
I’ve watched LCS since day one, through all the ups and downs over the years, and will tune in again next summer. There are comedians who have come on this show that I’ve become really big fans of.
My absolutely favorite is season 4 winner Josh Blue, who has cerebral palsy — he uses that in his act all the time and you can’t help but root for him because he’s absolutely hilarious. To further prove how much of a fan I am, I went to one of his stand-up shows when he came to my area a few years back, and I also have one of his comedy CD/DVDs. My other two favorites are Ant and Jay London (I also have their comedy albums).
LCS is a really great platform to showcase comedians, and it can give their careers a boost. Season 1 runner-up Ralphie May has released comedy albums, has been in films and has starred in his own stand-up specials on Comedy Central. Season 4’s Gabriel Iglesias has done really well for himself on TV. Season 5’s Amy Schumer is the most prominent at the moment because she debuted her own Comedy Central sketch show, Inside Amy Schumer, earlier this year to huge ratings for the network, and it’s been renewed for a second season.
And there’s so many other funny comedians who have competed on the show. Many if not most of them were already doing stand-up before trying out, but being on the show has given that extra push and extra exposure to continue helping them to succeed in their careers.
Con: Ratings, Ratings, Ratings
NBC may be finding success with shows like The Voice and The Blacklist right now, but they can’t catch a break anywhere else. Sure, Last Comic Standing will be airing in the summer, so expectations will be lowered, but still, I can’t imagine season 8 will do any better in the ratings than it did before.
There was obviously not a huge demand for the show before considering they kept cancelling it time and again. So what’s going to be different this time? I love Wanda Sykes, but will a big name behind the scenes actually draw in more viewers? That of course remains to be seen. NBC will have to start thinking bigger, like trying to hire some well-known names to be the host and judges.
I’m sure LCS is fairly cheap to produce, which is probably why NBC keeps bringing it back to fill up certain timeslots, so maybe they’ll have enough money to hire a top-notch cast. But we haven’t seen that in recent years, so who knows what will happen.
And speaking of the ratings, it’ll be interesting to see what day of the week the network decides to air the show. America’s Got Talent is their tentpole show during the summer — will they try and pair it with AGT on the same night? That could help. But then they’d have to change AGT‘s timeslot since this past season at least, it aired at 9pm on both nights, which means LCS would have to air at 8pm and be the lead-in — that might not be the best idea.
So if they don’t move AGT to accommodate, then LCS will have to be on its own night, and I don’t see that ending well. But again, everything may depend on the kind of cast they can hire, and maybe it won’t matter the timeslot if there’s a big draw among the judges or host, or if Wanda Sykes can bring in viewers on her own.
Pro: Last Comic Standing is Unlike Any Other Talent Show
There’s a boat load of talent competition shows on the air right now, especially ones that cater to singers. You’ve got American Idol, The Voice and The X Factor.
And even though America’s Got Talent is in its own category since it’s open to all kinds of talent, I would still partly lump it in with Idol and the rest because that show tends to advance a lot of singers; I guess viewers have the concept of voting for singers so ingrained in their minds from years of Idol that it’s hard to go away from that. For proof, five out of the eight winners are singers, and even one of the technically non-singing acts (Terry Fator) relies heavily on singing in his routines.
On the dancing side of things, Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance are very unique and distinct from each other and they’re in their own category as well.
But Last Comic Standing is one of a kind, I guess you could say. Yes, it uses the basic competition format of the other shows (because how else can you do it?), but it’s the only one to focus exclusively on comedians. (Who knows, maybe there’s a lesser-known one on cable or something, but I wouldn’t count it if that’s the case.) That’s what makes it stand out from the pack. It has its own angle, and it has succeeded in finding hilarious talent, to tie it back in with the first pro above.
Con: Why Watch When It’ll Only Be Cancelled Again
First off, I’m going to watch no matter what because I’m one of the fans who has stuck with this show through the good times and the bad, and even when I didn’t like certain elements of the format (which we’ll get to later).
But I doubt there are a lot of die-hard Last Comic Standing fans. And with how many times NBC has yanked this show, there might be a lot of people out there who will go, why should I even tune in when you’re just going to let it die yet again? Sure, we don’t know that for sure this time. But if history is any indication, we shouldn’t get our hopes up too much.
To give you as brief a recap as I can on this front, the first time LCS was cancelled was during season 3. It was the only season to not air during the summer. It came right after season 2 ended and was an All-Stars edition that brought back all the finalists from the first two installments. Things were so dismal that NBC actually killed the show right before the finale. Yes, you read that right: there was only one more episode to go, the big one that would announce the winner, and they pulled the plug and instead moved the finale to Comedy Central. How can you get any lower than that, am I right?
NBC first revived the series in 2006 and it ran until 2008. Then it returned for one more season in 2010, and never came back the following year. But the interesting thing about it that time was that they never officially cancelled it. They pretty much just said it wasn’t going to air in 2011, or else just never gave a commitment.
So in way, there was that hope it would eventually return, but it’s been years and I’m sure pretty much everyone has forgotten about this show — I’ll admit I did — that’s why I was absolutely floored by today’s announcement. As I’ve said, I’ll be watching again, but I’m setting low expectations for its chances of returning the following year.
Pro and Con: The Format
This final one is both a pro and a con. The format of Last Comic Standing has morphed and changed over the years. It still has basically been the same, but the producers change up how it’s executed quite a bit.
Usually, what happens is they air the audition rounds, and eventually once it’s narrowed down to the group of finalists, the contestants live together and compete in various comic-related challenges. The comedians who don’t receive immunity have to vote for which of them should be on the chopping block. Those with the lowest votes go head to head with a stand-up challenge, and the audience there votes for a winner to stay.
While this is a great way to showcase the strengths of the finalists and allows the viewers to get to know them more for when we start voting later on, sometimes the best talent ends up going home because the contestants are trying to vote out their biggest competitors.
At some point in the season, the show goes live and the viewers can vote to narrow down the group until there’s a winner. When this happens depends on the year. Sometimes it’s not until the end of the season, sometimes it’s about halfway through. And during both seasons 3 and 7, there were no challenges or living in a house together or any of that — it was just straight up decided by the public. The pro to this is it gives us more power; a con is that we lose some of the fun and silly moments of the other format.
So as you can see, the format brings both the good and the bad with it. We don’t know yet which direction they’re taking it in season 8. I just hope that whatever way they go, they do it in a way that makes it the best show possible.
And there’s also both the good and the bad with reviving Last Comic Standing as a whole. I love this show because I have been introduced to some fantastic comedians. And I’ll no doubt be watching again, but will anybody else? With Wanda Sykes as the new executive producer, I’m really hoping the new season will be strong and NBC doesn’t continue breaking up with this show left and right — either keep it or drop it altogether. Let’s hope for the best.
(Image courtesy of WENN)